The public highway is anywhere the public have the right to pass - roads, paths, footways etc. The carriageway is part of the highway which is for carriages and vehicles, the footway alongside is for walking. The footway/sidewalk/pavement was paved, hence the name pavement, and was higher up to keep people's feet clean and dry, out of the puddles, mud and muck churned up by horses and carriages. In law a cycle is a vehicle or carriage, therefore you risk a fixed penalty notice and a fine if you cycle on the footway. Blue signs with a bicycle symbol give you permission to legally cycle on the footway even though it is still legally okay to cycle on the carriageway as an alternative.
Blue signs are advisory, not mandatory. Bicycle symbols on a blue rectangle (e.g. Vyne road, Salisbury gardens) advise you that a recommended cycle route continues on the carriageway, not the pavement, though this is not much good without directions signs! Round blue signs with a bike symbol indicate it is permissible to cycle on a path or pavement.
Blue cycle dismount discs recommend dismounting, usually placed where there is a hazard for the cycle user, not the pedestrian), for example danger of getting run over at a road crossing, low headroom in a subway, or low parapets on a bridge. Did you know there is also a horse rider dismount sign and dismounting block at a subway into War Memorial Park? Cycle dismount signs are frequently found on cycle routes !! so at least you know it is legal to cycle, even if it may not be safe to do so.
I am often asked if it is legal to cycle through the Alencon Link at the "bus station" in front of the rail station as there is a round red bordered sign with a car and motor bike. This means that motor vehicles are not allowed, but bicycles and e-bikes or pedalecs which offer pedal assistance up to 14mph, are permitted as the bicycle symbol is not shown.
Unfortunately cycling in the Top of Town is not allowed as there is a white disc with a red circle (compulsory) and no exceptions listed as in the picture below. However, from the square to the "Gates" London Street is classified as a bridleway, so you can cycle there!
It is odd that so many cars and vans are allowed in Top of Town, yet not cycles if pedalled with due care and consideration.
Painted bike symbols on the road have no legal status, but may indicate a cycle route (e.g. in Viables) or warn drivers to expect cyclists on the road. They are often found close to the kerb, which is where cycle instructors teach you NOT to cycle as then you are out of the vision range of following motorists and you may have to swerve to avoid debris and drain holes.
You should cycle at least a metre to a metre and a half away from the kerb or "claim the road" and cycle in the centre of the lane. Not everyone knows this as the following story reveals:
Recently in Yorkshire police attended an argument between a motorist and a cyclist. The motorist complained "cyclists think they own the road". The policeman then asked "was the cyclist in front of you?". Answer "yes". Policeman "in that case the cyclist owns the road".
Cycle Basingstoke constantly complains to the Highways Authority (Hampshire County Council) about the illogicality of many signs and cycle routes that are not for cycling. See our next news item for progress made on this front.